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Speaking With the Distinctly Authentic, Self-Taught Caribbean Artist Davey Sandy, “The Dread”

Born blind on the island of Tobago, Davey Sandy aka “The Dread” creates distinctly authentic art, often inspired by folks he meets in his travels. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Davey and find out a bit about him.

When did you first start drawing?

As a kid, I was always doodling. But I didn’t take it seriously. In 1986, as a teen, I became serious about making art.

Was there anything specific that stirred you to engage with art at that point?

Yes. It was coming to America. I was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Tobago. And when I came to America, everything was different. The pace was so fast, I was in a state of shock!  It was like I had traveled from the beach to the jungle! And art became an outlet.

What is your earliest art memory? 

The carnival back home — the guys who painted themselves black and draped red snakes around their necks.

What inspires you to keep creating art?

I love it! If I didn’t do art, I’d go stark raving mad!

Have you any favorite artists?

Among them are the self-taught American artist Phil Frost, the noted Dublin-born painter Francis Bacon, and the Dutch American abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning.

What about your cultural influences? 

I’m intrigued by Russian culture, particularly traditional Russian costumes. And skateboarding is a major cultural and personal influence. I’ve learned from it not to be afraid of anything!

Is there a central or overall theme that ties your work together?

I paint the people I meet in my travels the way I perceive them.

How has your artwork evolved in the past few years?

I’ve developed more modes of expression. I’ve found more ways to express what I see and feel.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

No! Never! I’m always craving to develop myself further. To accomplish more.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?  Why?

It was a Picasso-inspired portrait that I drew on a bus ticket of someone I met on my travels. I then gave it to that person!

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

It depends! I can do a quick portrait in as little as seven minutes; but when I work with oil paints, it’s anywhere from five days to six months.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

I devote about six hours a day to my art.

How important is it to you that others like your work?

It doesn’t really matter to me whether they like it or not. I just want a response!

What are your favorite media to work with?

Oil on canvas, pastels and varied vegetation.

How does your family feel about what you do?

They don’t quite understand my characters. They perceive them as supernatural, but my mother thinks my art is interesting.

Have you a formal art education? 

No. I’m entirely self-taught.

What are some of your other interests?

I’m interested in 80’s Italian bikes and Aqua Vegetation.

Where are you headed? 

To a place where I can make you feel uneasy without my being there.

What do you see as the artist’s role in society?

Our role is to shake it up!

Note: A small selection of Davey Sandy‘s artworks will be on view in ART BreakOUT‘s upcoming exhibition, “I Am Many: A Visual Meditation on Identity,” opening Thursday, September 7 at The Local NYC, 13-02 44th Avenue in Long Island City.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky